Friday, July 04, 2008

Paris -- much older than we thought!

If you're visiting Paris soon, you might keep the following in mind. Paris has long been known to be a very old city but its history as a settlement has just been extended by more than 3,000 years. An archaeological dig moves back Paris's first known human occupation to
about 7600 BCE, in the Mesolithic period between the two stone ages.

An area about the size of a football field on the south-western edge of the city, close to the banks of the river Seine, has yielded thousands of flint arrowheads and fragments of animal bone. The site, between the Paris ring road and the city's helicopter port, is believed by archaeologists to have been used, nearly 10,000 years ago, as a kind of sorting and finishing station for flint pebbles washed up on the banks of the river.

The oldest previous human settlement discovered within the Paris city boundaries dates back to about 4500 BCE – a fishing and hunting village beside the Seine at Bercy near the Gare de Lyon railway station. The new exploration – by Inrap, the French government agency for 'preventive' archaeology on sites where new building is imminent – pushes back the history of the city to the mysterious period between the Old and New stone ages.

The site in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, about a mile from the Eiffel Tower, has been preserved by silt from the frequent flooding of the Seine. Archaeologists believe that it was used for many centuries during the Mesolithic period, perhaps for periods of only a few weeks at a time, as a place to prospect for, and sort out, flint pebbles for cutting into arrowheads. The dig has also unearthed larger instruments made from granite. They include an almost perfectly
round hand-held pounder the size of a billiard ball, and long stone blades, possibly used for making arrow shafts or scraping animal skins. Evidence on the site suggests that it remained in use as a human settlement, on and off, until the iron age, from 800 to 500 BCE.

Source: The Independent (26 June 2008)


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